Montreal hotels/suggestions for a short visit?
December 16, 2012 4:58 PM   Subscribe

Montreal hotels/suggestions for a short visit? Tell me about the city

Last minute escape/trip to Montreal at Xmas. Need suggestions for a decent hotel/B & B reasonably close to Amtrak Station. Where do you love to wander/eat/? I have a couple of days to explore the city looking for nice neighborhoods/buildings/odds and ends.
posted by ebesan to Travel & Transportation around Montreal, QC (18 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
If you're into eating meat, it is absolutely mandatory to eat at Au Pied de Cochon. Added bonus: it's in a cool, out-of-the-way part of town that's a lot of fun to wander around.
posted by eugenen at 5:00 PM on December 16, 2012

You don't mention your budget, but Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth hotel is more than decent ($$), and right above the Amtrak station.
posted by Kruger5 at 5:29 PM on December 16, 2012

I stayed here, which looks to be 2km from the Amtrak station. The rooms have proper, if tiny, kitchens. There's a supermarket a block and a half away. Basically, I picked it for the kitchens and the proximity to the UQÀM science complex, which would suggest (accurately) that I didn't spend a ton of time wandering the city or going to restaurants, so I'm not a ton of help with the rest of the question. I did have a nice walk up Mont-Royal, though I don't know how that would be in winter.
posted by hoyland at 5:32 PM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

We took the Amtrak up last winter and walked to the nice Hotel Le Dauphin on Rue de Bleury. There's a good Metro station open weekdays inside the nearby Conference Center.

Also seconding Au Pied de Cochon. We had the most decadent hot chocolates ever at Suite 88 and were just reminiscing about them today.
posted by cobaltnine at 5:33 PM on December 16, 2012

Limited budget. I like to wander, and explore. Don't need entertainment.
posted by ebesan at 5:44 PM on December 16, 2012

I did have a nice walk up Mont-Royal, though I don't know how that would be in winter.

Excellent in the winter, especially in the snow. But as long as you have proper boots. Not having boots made me somewhat unhappy about it on the way up, but it was still worth it.

Depending on how limited your limited budget is, Hostel Montreal Central was quite nice. It's a short subway trip away from the train station, but the neighborhoods around it are excellent for wandering around.

Poutine is everywhere and must be tried, but one of the more well-known places for it is La Banquise. You can also get a version that comes loaded with another of Montreal's famous food dishes, smoked meat.

And yeahhh, Au Pied du Cochon.
posted by kiltedtaco at 5:50 PM on December 16, 2012

I stayed here when it was still called the Hotel Godin. It's in a hip neighborhood walkable to nearly everything. There's was a neat little shopping/dining district up the street, but we spent more time in Old Montreal. It's a beautiful and incredibly friendly city; if you can book a hotel room—even if you don't know what you want to do—then you can basically ask for advice during your entire stay. That's what we did and we had a lot of good experiences.
posted by littlerobothead at 5:52 PM on December 16, 2012

I stayed at the YWCA a couple years ago, and it was affordable and decent. I opted for the private room with shared bathroom, but they look to have rooms with private bathrooms as well. It looks to be less than a kilometer from the Amtrak station, and it was just a couple blocks from the metro and the downtown shopping area.
posted by Maarika at 5:59 PM on December 16, 2012

Seconding Mont Royale. Also Old Montreal is beautiful, as is the Notre-Dame Basilica, and both are great, inexpensive places to wander.
posted by Ms. Toad at 6:22 PM on December 16, 2012

In my capacity as a Yankees hater, I enjoyed this article, but then it turned into a Montreal travelogue that I enjoyed even more. I decided to test Russell Martin's claim that Olive et Gourmando had the best coffee in North America and went there after visiting my parents for (American) Thanksgiving, and they do have some damn good coffee. And a really good Cuban sandwich. So I recommend going there if you wander through Old Montreal.
posted by A dead Quaker at 8:43 PM on December 16, 2012

I used to live in Montreal for a short time. I agree that a random walk around the nooks and crannies of Old Montreal is highly necessary.

If you eat meat, a smoked meat sandwich ad Schwartz's deli should be on your list. It's a very old school, unpretentious spot. I wonder if the picture of Celine Dion visiting is still in the window?

Spend an hour or so visiting St. Viateur street, between St. Laurent and Parc. You'll pass St. Viateur Bagels where you can see bagels being cranked out by the hundreds--yummo! A few blocks along the same street is Cafe Olimpico which has one of the best lattes you will ever drink (i think it's the latte...get in line and listen to what drink pretty much everyone is ordering because it's so good). The Mile End neighbourhood in general is kinda "cool" and hipster in an understated way. Also, the huge, domed church/cathedral near the corner of St. Viateur and St. Urbain always took my breath away.

A late night walk along St. Laurent to see the Friday/Saturday night shenanigans going on could be fun. Plenty of places to stop for a drink.

I could go on and on..
posted by oceanview at 10:29 PM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Look at a street map of Montreal. See the streets going northwest? Henceforth, those streets go north. Adjust all other directions accordingly.

So here's what I would do to as an exploring-tourist wandering tour. Start in Old Port, which is touristy and high-priced but worth looking at. Head north (remember, "north") a bit along St-Laurent and you'll be in Chinatown. Cut west almost immediately and go as far as St-Denis, then veer north again. This is the Quartier Latin, home to many of Montreal's political-activist student agitator types. Walk up St-Denis for a bit, my favorite cheap-unassuming-delicious breakfast place, Fruits Folie, is just past Roy. Now cut back east to St-Laurent on Roy if you want to be able to hit Schwartz's for smoked meat, or else may walk a little further on St-Denis if you're liking it. Don't wait too long to cut back across to St-Laurent, though; this is the Plateau. St-Laurent then becomes Mile-End. You should find many little places to explore in these neighborhoods. For the love of god don't just watch the sesame bagels being cranked out at St-Viateur, eat one! They're not at all like bagels in other places. It's also worth going one block further north to hit Cheskie's for the best chocolate babka ever. Now I think at this point I would probably double back and head south, maybe along St-Urbain, to end up with a little hike up Mont Royal in the evening to see the city lights at night.

In other words, basically walk mostly north along St-Laurent for about 4 km, with zig-zags back and forth, then climb the mountain (like "north", this is a "mountain"). Expect to be very cold the entire time.
posted by ootandaboot at 10:55 PM on December 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you like fish, check out Le Poisson Rouge, a lovely little romantic BYOB that has the most amazing prix fixe made from local, North Atlantic seafood. Seriously, this place is a gem, and not too far away from Old Montreal.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:13 PM on December 16, 2012

Hotel suggestion: If you like art, I recommend LHotel (no apostrophe). It's in Old Montreal, and the entire hotel, including the rooms, is like a wonderful art gallery. The art is from the 1960's through 1980's, and I believe that they are all originals. The people there are great also.

Also quite good, and closer to the Place Des Arts is the Square Phillips hotel and suites.
posted by mbarryf at 6:35 AM on December 17, 2012

I stayed here a couple of years ago. It's not super close to the train (google says 8km) but it was nice/comfortable/quiet and inexpensive.
posted by quaking fajita at 6:36 AM on December 17, 2012

I live here, but when we have a staycation I ususally book L'appartement hotel, mostly because we have kids and the rooms have kitchens, are centrally located, and there is a pool.

Parc la fontaine ice rink is really lovely, with music and lights. You can rent skates there. It isn’t open yet but hopefully the weather will stay cold enough for it to open soon. Check here under Plateau Mont Royal and you want to see “overte” under at least one of the three La Fontaine entries (there are different sections to the rink). If it doesn’t open there are also good outdoor rinks that will be open in the Old Port and on top of Mont Royal (Beaver Lake), because they are refrigerated. You can rent skates at both of those places as well.

I always recommend the Botanical Gardens which are lovely any time of year. There are indoor and outdoor spaces to explore. Many people love to visit Notre Dame Basilica in the Old Port. I prefer to take visitors to St. Joseph’s Oratory. Catch the metro to Cote des neiges.

The Jean Talon and Atwater Markets are fun to explore. Jean Talon is bigger and generally less expensive, Atwater is a bit swankier, with a nice location next to the Lachine Canal.

The suggestion to wander along St. Viateur in the Mile End is a good one. Laurier and Fairmount, which run parallel to St. Viateur also have some good stores, restaurants etc. Laurier has pricier stuff. Rue Mont Royal is great to wander up and down as well.

With regards to food, Café Santropol is an institution. If you are downtown, try the cheap and good Lebanese food at Boustan. Rotisserie Romandos in the Plateau has great, cheap, filling Portugese style chicken. If you are in the Mile End you’ll be spoiled for choice on St. Viateur, but also further north on Bernard. Good, cheap and very spicy Indian food is to be found on Jean Talon. This one is good, but frankly you can't really go wrong with any of the hole in the wall places in this area.

If you want to stay indoors you can visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The permanent collection is free to visit (they will give you a sticker). If you want to see the special exhibitions you’ll have to pay. The contemporary art gallery is centrally located near malls and outdoor festival space at Place des arts. Smaller museums that are fun to visit include the archeological museum in the Old Port, The McCord Museum, downtown, which covers Montreal history, and the CCA which covers architecture.

I hope you have a great holiday.
posted by Cuke at 7:57 AM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

St. Viateur bagels are, of course, inferior to Fairmount bagels. They are open 24 hours a day and are best very hot out of the oven. Cheskie's is delicious, and shut Friday afternoon some point until Sunday morning. Their clover-shaped cheese things are fantastic too.

Tip: even numbers are on the south and west sides of streets. For north/south streets, numbers start at the south end and increase as you go north -- the 40 is around 9000, Mount Royal is around 4700. For east/west streets, numbers start at St-Laurent and increase in both directions.

If you like graphic novels, check out Drawn & Quarterly.
posted by jeather at 12:29 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

FYI -if you end up doing the zig-zag up St. Laurent and St. Denis and want to stop for evening supper, you can buy a bottle(s) of wine at one of the provincially run liquor stores and ask them to serve it at your table.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:48 PM on December 17, 2012

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